Paris waiters race in century-old server race ahead of Olympics: NPR

Servers go for “Café courseIn front of the City Hall in central Paris on Sunday.

Dimitar Delkov/AFP via Getty Images


Hide caption

Toggle caption

Dimitar Delkov/AFP via Getty Images


Servers go for “Café courseIn front of the City Hall in central Paris on Sunday.

Dimitar Delkov/AFP via Getty Images

Foreign stereotypes of French restaurants tend to portray service as slow. But hordes of Parisian waiters proved just the opposite this weekend when they rushed the streets of the capital carrying full trays in their hands.

Thousands of spectators gathered to watch more than 200 servers compete in the “Course des Cafés” on Sunday, the newly revived version of the century-old race.

Waiters and waitresses traversed the 1.2-mile loop that begins and ends at City Hall, dressed in traditional white shirts, black slacks, neatly tied aprons and, in some cases, bow ties. Each of them carried a tray laden with croissants, a full glass of water, and an empty cup of coffee.

The goal: cross the finish line as quickly as possible without running, spilling, or holding the tray with both hands at the same time.

“On the streets of the Marais, you will have to zigzag with agility, avoid obstacles with dexterity worthy of opera dancers and show speed without haste,” he said. Paris waterThe city's public water company is the sponsor of this event. “It will not only be about speed, but above all balance.”

At the finish line, judges checked contestants' trays, flowing water anchor points, broken plates and empty cups, according to the British Daily Mail. The New York Timeswhich reported that most people finished in less than 20 minutes.

The winner of the men's race, Sammy Lamrousse, finished the race in 13 minutes and 30 seconds, while the winner of the women's race, Pauline van Wiemersch, finished the race in 14 minutes and 12 seconds.

See also  The military council in Niger expels the French ambassador

Aside from bragging rights, Each of them won a medal An overnight stay in a luxury hotel and two tickets to the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games this summer The Associated Press reported.

Thirty-four-year-old Van Wiemersch, who has worked in the industry since she was 16, told the AP she couldn't imagine doing anything other than waiting tables, calling it “part of my DNA.” “.

“I love it as much as I hate it,” she said, noting the weekends and vacations she lost as well as the experience she gained. “I have been shaped, in life and at work, by the bosses who have trained me, the clients, and all the people I have met.”

Participants carried trays, each containing a cup of coffee, a croissant, and a cup of water.

Christoph Ena/AFP


Hide caption

Toggle caption

Christoph Ena/AP


Participants carried trays, each containing a cup of coffee, a croissant, and a cup of water.

Christoph Ena/AFP

The celebration of Paris's café culture returns after more than a decade

Cafés and restaurants are a major part of Paris's history and culture. In fact, the modern restaurant's roots go back to the stock-heavy “broth shops” of 18th-century Paris, says Marianne Thipin, a professor specializing in French food and French identity at Bard College in Simon's Rock.

The race reflects pride in this long tradition and in the quality of French service in general, Thipin told NPR in a phone interview. Many waiters have been working in the industry — and even in the same establishment — for decades, following a strict set of best practices.

“The café has been around since the 17th century, so the café waiter has been around since then as well,” she said. “There is a lot of pride in the traditional ways. But as it enters the modern era, it is still alive and well.”

Café Race – which is what it was originally called Course des Garçons de Café (Cafe Waiters Race) – Originated in Paris in 1914, to celebrate… Paris water calls “The know-how and skill of the waiters.”

See also  Chinese Vice Premier says the world should abandon the Cold War mentality

She added: “On the big day, glasses and bottles were placed on their trays, napkins in their arms, and waiters, dressed in white jackets, black pants and ties, competed in the streets to the cheers of the audience.” .

Waiters participate in a café race in 1957 on Place de la Bastille in Paris.

AFP via Getty Images


Hide caption

Toggle caption

AFP via Getty Images


Waiters participate in a café race in 1957 on Place de la Bastille in Paris.

AFP via Getty Images

The race was held regularly in the following decades. Similar races have been launched in other French cities, such as Marseille and Nice, and abroad, including France Hong Kong, Buenos Aires And San Francisco. Some cities in the UK have put their own stamp on this event, CNN reportsReplace coffee and croissants with a pint of beer.

Paris temporarily halted the race in 2011, due to budget constraints.

The city includes about 150,000 cafes and restaurants, according to what the British newspaper “Daily Mail” reported 2023 reportBut Tippin says that number has shrunk over time, especially as young people increasingly gravitate toward places with fast service and strong Wi-Fi.

Given the economic and political realities, she says she's not surprised the race faded, or that city officials decided to bring it back this year, before the Summer Olympics.

“The way [the French] “Exercise is a little different, and everything in Paris is a little more elegant,” she added, noting that France doesn’t have the same kind of public gym culture as the United States, “so I love this race that you can do.” Don't run, you have to walk. You cannot hold the tray with both hands, you can switch it from one hand to the other. “I think this is a very French version of… a sporting competition, with all the style and kind of skill that the French talk about, especially in Paris.”

Meanwhile, the Summer Olympics are approaching

Eau de Paris contributed the equivalent of more than $100,000 to cover the cost of trays, aprons, coffee and croissants, according to what Reuters reported. the guardian.

The water company says the race has the same aims as before – “promoting the sport and French excellence in service” – with a new focus on reducing plastic waste.

It's part of the utility Bigger campaign Against single-use plastic water bottles, which includes encouraging restaurants and companies to do so Pledge to fill out Water bottles for patrons with free tap water.

“In a city that is about to host the greenest Olympic Games in history and two days before World Water Day, it is important that our oldest traditions take a step towards a greener future,” he added.

The race returned to Paris on Sunday after a 13-year hiatus.

Dimitar Delkov/AFP via Getty Images


Hide caption

Toggle caption

Dimitar Delkov/AFP via Getty Images


The race returned to Paris on Sunday after a 13-year hiatus.

Dimitar Delkov/AFP via Getty Images

Tippin says she's glad racing is back, and hopes that, along with the Olympics, it will help reinvigorate the Café de Paris spirit, which she describes as a kind of “eternal joy.”

Thipin says the Olympics are an opportunity for France to showcase its innovations, from environmental initiatives to culinary fusion. For her, the race shows how ancient traditions can be modernized, without being completely abolished.

“They are proud of it and they won't try to change it because the world has changed,” she said. “There's some comfort in that too, which is that it's still going: the waiters are still there, doing what they always do and doing it right.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *